BY TOM BATCHLOR…FLORIDA
Continuing Education or “Con-Ed,” is a term well known to many people in their daily work and a concept especially familiar to those in the health-care field. For me as a (retired) public safety professional (Fire-Rescue/EMS), this meant regular training on new material and revisiting or reinforcing the basics. Every day is a training day and an opportunity to learn new techniques or refine skills. I apply this con-ed training practice every time I ride, and I consider Con-Ed motorcycle training just as important as personal protective riding gear. As a motorcyclist and safety advocate, I want to share the importance of motorcycle Con-Ed and make some suggestions on how readers can spend some time maximizing safe riding potential by throwing some extra knowledge with practical application into their safety toolboxes.
Simply put, there’s two types I’ll mention here, Formal and Informal. Formal being the recognized motorcycle safety classes, or industry/national standard training (recognized as such by many states), an example being the MSF (Motorcycle Safety Foundation) curriculums for Basic, Advance and the many other offerings they provided (visit www.msf-usa.org for a complete listing). Formal can also be any organized training provided by an organization or sanctioning body. Instructor led track days I’d put squarely in the formal column. Historic racing groups hold training to get race credentials which would also qualify, as does organized club offerings, classroom and range work included. Informal training, or self-paced training has many examples, from reading a book on safe riding, or a magazine article; watching safety videos online and even practicing a tip ether seen or heard from a riding buddy. I cannot over-state the importance and positive impact of informal training. Classroom and organized events are great (and MSF course completion cards can often result in lowering your insurance costs); however, there are great texts and resources to watch or read that can really sharpen your understanding of safe riding skills. The key to both types is putting the material into practice and once mastered, revisit/refresh the skill regularly.
“4 out of 5 Dentists recommend…”
Yes, we all know that statistics can be tailor made to make a point, however, statistics regarding motorcycle crash or near-crash (near-miss) collected data can be useful. If we can agree that initial and Con-Ed training enhances safety, here’s some interesting information. In September 2016 the MSF published a “Naturalistic Motorcycle Study” conducted by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) titled “Factors that Increase and Decrease Motorcycle Crash Risk.” This was a very in depth, detailed study based upon real-world rider data collection using instrumentation installed on test volunteer’s personal motorcycles. While somewhat small in numbers of subjects as studies go, I pulled some data from what the study classifies as “event” categories. In the study, these “events” are both crashes and near-crashes batched together since a near-crash is a significant occurrence and emblematic of perhaps a higher-risk scenario or that of higher hazard. I added notes after each in parenthesis to clarify the event categories. I did not include multi-vehicle events, only single vehicle (motorcycle only). Multi-vehicle hazards are a topic in of itself and will be covered in other articles.
– 56% of events were low-speed ground-impact (dropping the bike).
– 10% of events were road departure (possible control issues).
– 34% of events were subject bike over left-lane line (negotiating a curve or failure to do so safely).
The study’s conclusion, written in the familiar (but lengthy) technical paper prose basically states that formal rider education improves riding skills and can make riders more aware and able to handle emergency situations. All well and good. However, other material supports the VTTI summary. An article from motosport.com/blog (May, 2018) titled “Even Veteran Riders Benefit from Taking a Motorcycle Safety Course” reported, that “research suggests the experience you gain in your first six months of riding is about the same as you’d get from a 15-hour basic riding course.” To become more proficient, however, further training is required. “Advanced training isn’t for expert riders. It’s how you become an expert rider.” Therefore, the net-sum is basic rider training provides the essentials or foundation for sound riding practices and through experience and further training, riders become expertly skilled and better equipped for safer riding.
Putting it together:
Embracing the motorcycle Con-Ed concept is really the only way to move forward or upwards in your skills and abilities. If you think a 20-year riding history equals Con-Ed, think again. Sure, experience is great but repeating old stuff 20-times over doesn’t expand any skills. And to be frank, if you learned it wrong the first time, doing it the same way over and over doesn’t make it right. Can targeted Con-Ed training address things like dropping the bike, lane departure, control issues and other rider errors which can cause crashes? You bet they can, IF done so with both the learning and practicing components included. I would strongly recommend taking any riding course either as a refresher or the MSF Advanced Rider Course for more advanced concepts; any track riding classes for control skills; slow-speed courses are a must for large machines and are often hosted by local law enforcement as well as private company training providers; or any club-based/organized rider training that fits your budget and schedule. Any training is good training. If you prefer self-paced material, books like Proficient Motorcycling by David Hough are excellent informal training, Keith Code’s A Twist of the Wrist is the resource for canyon or mountain carving. And don’t forget online sources. YouTube® is a fabulous resource for some great riding training, tips and skills. Crash data studies on what causes motorcycle fatalities may sound morbid but very important to read and understand. The material is out there, just do a quick search online, you’ll be amazed how much you find. I’ve included some below that I think you’ll really like. Keep your training up, keep your skills up and you’ll keep your bike up. It’s that simple. Ride safe.
T, Andrew. Even Veteran Riders Benefit from Taking a Motorcycle Safety Course. www.motosport.com/Blog, 2018.
V Williams, et al. “Factors that Increase or Decrease Motorcycle Crash Risk.” Study Findings. 2016.
Crash-Course: The SMIDSY Weave – accessible on YouTube® – enter SMIDSY into search field or go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eqQBubilSXU
Motorcycle Conspicuity and High-Vis Gear Study – accessible at Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) https://www.ghsa.org/index.php/resources/NCREP-Motorcyclists19